“My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee. Acknowledging this now is in the best interests of those in the campaign; it is in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee; and it is in the best interests of the country,” O’Rourke wrote.
O’Rourke launched his presidential race after capturing national attention for nearly defeating Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. He has been adamant that he does not want to challenge the state’s senior GOP senator, John Cornyn, next year, and The New York Times reported that O’Rourke does not plan to run for Senate, even after ending his presidential bid.
Ultimately the grassroots strategy that helped him defeat a Democratic lawmaker in a 2012 primary and nearly defeat Cruz in 2018 proved difficult to replicate on a national scale.
After initially raising more than $6 million on his first day in the presidential race, O’Rourke struggled to keep up the fundraising pace. O’Rourke raised a record $80 million in his 2018 Senate race against Cruz, but had pulled in $17.5 million in his presidential run since launching his campaign in March.
O’Rourke had spent $14.2 million of it according to the most recent disclosure with the Federal Election Commission. In the third fundraising quarter, a time when campaigns where jockeying for position and under pressure to attract more individual donors to meet higher thresholds set by the party to be on stage for debates, he took in $4.5 million but spent $6.4 million, and had just $3.3 million on hand as of Sept. 30.
The former Texas congressman also struggled to break through national polls. His campaign was reenergized following a mass shooting in August in his hometown of El Paso, where a gunman targeted the Hispanic community. O’Rourke referenced the El Paso shooting in his Medium post on Friday.
“At this moment of truth for our country, we laid bare the cost and consequence of Donald Trump: the rise in hate crimes, the terror attack in El Paso, the perversion of the Constitution, the diminished standing of the United States around the world,” O’Rourke wrote. “But we also made clear the common responsibility to confront him, to hold him accountable and ensure that he does not serve another term in office.”
Following the shooting, O’Rourke made gun control central to his campaign, advocating for a mandatory buyback of assault weapons.
“Hell yes we’re going to take your AR-15’s, your AK-47,” O’Rourke famously said in a Democratic debate in September. “We’re not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”